Could the Rockies trade this Gold Glover?

November 29th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Thomas Harding’s Rockies Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Second baseman Brendan Rodgers finished his truncated 2023 season by offering the Rockies reasons to not trade him and fulfill their enduring need for starting pitching.

Rodgers sustained a left shoulder injury during Spring Training that required surgery and delayed his 2023 season debut until July 31. After a hot start followed by an extended dip, Rodgers ended the season with a surge, slashing .348/.392/.580 in his final 17 games and hitting all four of his homers in the last 11 games.

“I missed 80 percent of the year, which is tough, so it’s important for me to get these at-bats at the end of the year,” Rodgers said during the final days of the 2023 season. “It’s important for me just to try to find that rhythm and kind of do what I've been doing and try to carry that over in the next year and into the work in the offseason.”

With the Winter Meetings next week in Nashville, Tenn., trading Rodgers for pitching is at least worth a thought exercise. It was more than that for the Rockies last offseason, even as Rodgers, who won't be a free agent until after the 2025 season, was celebrating his first Gold Glove Award in ‘22.

According to reports, the Rockies had trade talks with the Marlins about Rodgers. Colorado preferred righty Edward Cabrera and his six years of club control over Pablo López’s higher salary and two years. López ended up going to the Twins and finished his first season with Minnesota tied for the third-most strikeouts in the Major Leagues (234). Miami settled its second-base issue by trading López for Luis Arraez, who would lead the Majors in 2023 with a .354 batting average. The Rockies also, per sources, had talks with the Mariners centered around Rodgers, but they didn’t feel the return was right.

Unless the right trade comes along, Colorado will hope for a year of consistency and health from the 27-year-old Rodgers.

Right shoulder surgery limited Rodgers to 27 games in 2019, his debut season. Hamstring injuries shortened his participation in ‘20 and ‘21, though he managed to hit 15 homers across 102 games in ‘21. Then came the shoulder injury in February '23.

In 2022, his healthiest season, Rodgers gave a glimpse of why it makes sense to keep him. He endured a rough April and hit .078, then sizzled to a .359 batting average over his next 26 games. Rodgers finished the year hitting a respectable .266, but he dropped to 13 home runs. The Rockies believe he has 20-homer power.

“With Brendan, you’re seeing some hard contact, and you’re seeing some softer balls fall -- but that’s a function of strength,” manager Bud Black said during Rodgers’ hot finish in 2023. “He’s fisted some balls for hits against some good pitchers, but he’s also rifled some balls. That’s a very good sign.”

The Winter Meetings promise plenty of smoke -- and just maybe some fire -- when it comes to free agents, as well as top-of-the-rotation trade candidates, but it’s hard to see the Rockies being involved in the upper tier. Beyond Rodgers, Colorado doesn’t have regulars with extensive experience and club control. The team also has not been in the business of dealing standouts early in their career, so it’s unlikely they’ll move offensive sensation Nolan Jones or Gold Glove Award-winning center fielder Brenton Doyle.

But the Rockies’ first pitching move of the offseason -- acquiring righty Cal Quantrill from the Guardians for Minor League catcher Kody Huff -- shows they are seeking value without trading regulars.

Rodgers is at the front of a middle-infield picture that offers depth.

Switch-hitting shortstop Adael Amador finished the year as the Rockies’ No. 1 prospect (No. 21 overall), per MLB Pipeline. Third baseman and corner outfielder Sterlin Thompson, Colorado’s No. 6 prospect, hit .293 with High-A Spokane and Double-A Hartford in 2023 and earned '23 All-Arizona Fall League honors while playing more games at second base. Shortstop Ryan Ritter, the Rockies’ No. 20 prospect, produced offensively beyond expectations after Colorado drafted him in the fourth round in ‘22, posting a .902 OPS across three levels in ‘23. All could attract suitors in a trade. Also, Julio Carreras, who batted .235 in 88 games at Double-A Hartford and has played all around the infield, has been hot at .319 with three homers and 19 RBIs in 26 games with Gigantes Del Cibao in the Dominican Winter League.

What reduces the chances of Rodgers being dealt during the Winter Meetings is that none of those prospects is likely to be Major League-ready by Opening Day 2024. A more likely scenario is a prospect pushing his way into Major League consideration during the season and making the Rockies revisit the idea of dealing Rodgers before the Trade Deadline. 

Rodgers has dealt with so much trade talk that he hasn’t given the chatter and rumors much thought. He finished the season ready to open a training facility on land he purchased near Orlando, Fla., and was eager to build on a solid finish.

Before his left shoulder injury during Spring Training, Rodgers began embracing his status as a veteran on a team that, it turned out, became younger as the season progressed. Toward the end of the 2023 season, Rodgers invited teammates to work with him at the new building.

“We’ll have Charlie Blackmon back and he’ll continue to do his role,” Rodgers said. “We’ve talked a lot about what it takes, and that has helped me a lot. There's definitely room for me and some other guys for improvement, but I think that's what kind of the offseason is for.”

Rodgers also covets a second Gold Glove Award -- an honor he didn’t have a chance to defend in 2023.

“It stinks not even being able to be mentioned because of the time I missed,” Rodgers said. “I’ve played solidly on ‘D.’ My goal is the same as [2022]: to expand the range, continue the double-play turns, make the tough plays and the tough turns. I’ll be right back at it next year.”

Those are statements of a man not sitting around expecting to be dealt.

“That's not really a thought that crosses my mind,” Rodgers said. “I'm here for technically another two years. I have nothing but good things to say. I would love to, you know, finish out my time here and you know, kind of see where everything goes.”